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U.S. Prepares for Once in a Generation Arctic Blast; Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Calls for More Help during Historic U.S. Trip; Interview with Rep. Michael McCaul on Zelenskyy Speech. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired December 22, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone.

AT THIS HOUR, it is being called a once in a generation event. People from coast to coast really facing serious cold and harsh conditions with this storm setting in.

Plus, Ukraine's president makes an in-person appeal to every American. The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee joins us with his take on this historic speech we saw yesterday.

And also, we're showing you, these are some images, you've been getting live pictures in all morning from space, as NASA conducted an important space walk.

This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR. Thanks for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan.

The numbers are pretty startling. More than 100 million Americans are right now under severe weather alerts. The massive winter storm is really having an impact on nearly every state in the country.

We're going to show you, just look at conditions already. You have Colorado, you've got Wyoming, Washington state and Denver, Colorado, freezing temperatures and blizzard conditions and rain and wind. They're on the way for everybody.

The National Weather Service has labeled this a once in a generation type of event and it is multiple days we'll see this. We just heard also from President Biden at the White House, talking about this, warning Americans that this is no ordinary snow day and to take it quite seriously.

When it is this cold and widespread it is to surprise that it is becoming a travel nightmare. We're going to get an update on air travel in just a moment.

But the roads are also a major concern. Officials from the federal government and state leaders and local officials are all now pleading that people stay inside and off the roads as much as possible. We have all of this covered AT THIS HOUR.


BOLDUAN: So Denver saw a 24-degree drop in temperature in just 7 minutes. Lucy Kafanov is standing by and hopefully staying warm.

It is hard to imagine that temperature drop is possible in that amount of time.

What are you hearing from folks there?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, I'm actually not hearing much from folks because people are heeding the advice of officials and authorities and not walking around in this terrible weather.

We have like this wonderful little store right here that is open. They have not seen any customers here today. The streets have been plowed but they're virtually empty. This is a busy downtown area. Not today.

But right now, it is minus 11, minus 12, below zero. It feels like negative 25. It is miserable. I'm going to do a career making moment and show you how cold this is. I'm not sure if it is going to work. This is boiling water and we'll throw it up.

I don't know. So that didn't work. But it is cold and miserable. And people are being told to stay out of the streets.


KAFANOV: They've opened 24-hour warming centers, including the Denver coliseum. The wind chills in some parts of Colorado are below 60. That literally could cause frostbite to exposed skin for a prolonged period of time. So if you're in Colorado, don't do what I'm doing. Don't be outside. Stay home.

BOLDUAN: It is serious temperatures, but I love you. You're just doing it and I love you for it. Keep with it. Thank you so much.

So "The Des Moines Register" headline today, brace for a blizzard, as this weather takes hold in Iowa. In Des Moines, it's negative 8 degrees but with the wind chill it is feeling like negative almost 50 degrees.

Joining me now is the mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, Frank, Mayor Cownie.

This storm is hitting your state and so many others in a big way.

How nasty is it going to get there?

MAYOR FRANK COWNIE, DES MOINES: We haven't had a terrible lot of snow yet. We've had about 2.5 and 3 inches. But it is still blowing around and it is supposed to continue and pick up a lot by noon.

And when that picks up, you know, and the wind picks up with it, to gusts up to 50 miles an hour, we're going to see blizzard and white- out conditions and consistent negative temperatures are expected over the next few days.

And like you said a minute ago, we're going to see wind chills up to negative 40. And that is going to be a little scary. So holiday travel in this area likely will be put on hold. Our public works department and our snow team, they're out working diligently to clear all of our streets.

But these conditions, you know, they make it nearly impossible to keep the roads clean, because it will drift right back over as these winds pick up. The temperatures, cold and high winds could cause also a hypothermia and frostbite very quickly.

So we're advising everybody to stay out of this weather, stay indoors, stay safe and we're advising residents to remain home and not travel unless it is absolutely necessary. These conditions are unreal.

And, of course, we're seeing, with climate change, more extreme conditions, from the high heats and high winds and duration in the summer to this kind of situation in the winter.

BOLDUAN: We're showing a map right now. We're just showing pictures from Des Moines which looks like some rough road conditions overnight and in the early morning and it is all just starting. And it is negative temperatures all over the map for Iowa.

Again, Iowa knows cold but like President Biden said, this is no regular snow day when you're looking at temperatures, this brutally, brutally cold when you add in the wind chill.

You mention climate change. And you've done a lot of work in terms of the fight against the climate crisis.

How do you see the climate crisis playing into what Des Moines is facing here?

COWNIE: It is not just here; it is all over the world. We're seeing extreme conditions going from, you know, it is predicted that, in the next five to 10 years, we're going to see 125-degree summer temperatures here in Des Moines.

And as we are speaking, looking at wind chills of negative 30, 40 degrees, those are extremes that, you know, we wish that we didn't experience. But those are the kind of things that are happening that brings about drought.

And in Denver, who is seeing those extreme conditions now in that whole Colorado area, they've seen droughts and forest fires as a result of the precipitation they need. We're worried about that for our agro businesses here in Iowa and the ability to raise and feed not only Iowa but the world.

We think it can be impacted and I think it is our responsibility as citizens and leaders -- and thank you for the work that you guys do. We need to let everybody know that this is important, and we have to move beyond intentions and we have to start acting and doing everything that we can. Our city has a climate action plan that we're implementing. And we're

trying to share it with as many folks around the state of Iowa and around the United States. And having just come back from the U.N. climate conference, we're trying to share it with the world.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, thank you so much for coming on. I know you guys have a -- like a multi-day event that everybody is looking at, including in Des Moines. So thank you for coming on and be safe.


BOLDUAN: Thank you.

The weather is impacting air travel and setting off a ripple effect across the country forcing more than 1,500 flight cancellations so far. Pete Muntean is live at this hour at Chicago O'Hare airport.

Pete, how is it looking?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, believe it or not, here, Kate, the crowd has thinned a little bit. Which you could take one of two ways. One that folks heeded the advice of airlines and rebooked to earlier flights before the snow hits in earnest.

Or two, that folks are simply finding out that their flights are indeed canceled. Today was supposed to be the busiest pre-Christmas Day in terms of the number of flights scheduled nationwide.

But the numbers of cancellations keeps going up. And the pace is really quick. According to FlightAware, 1,570 flights canceled nationwide. O'Hare is number one. Denver is number two. Chicago Midway is number three. In fact, one in every four flights here at O'Hare has been canceled.

Which is a huge problem and will have a nationwide ripple effect because this is a huge hub for American Airlines and the biggest hub for United Airlines. Just got a tour of the ops center where crews scrambling to get passengers on connecting flights at different airports to save some trip.

And earlier in the week they were emailing passengers to get them to change their itineraries. Listen to those who got out here early before the snow hits.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought it would be best to escape and get out just a little bit before to avoid the weather.

We're mostly excited to be able to get to see the grandparents and for grandparents to spend some time during the Christmas and holiday season.


MUNTEAN: United Airlines said the snow will not be that big of a problem. They're used it to here at Chicago O'Hare. It is the biting cold that makes it very hard for ground crews to work, to load bags and marshal Planes.

High forecasted tomorrow, 2 degrees Fahrenheit. And the cancellations keep coming. Tomorrow 780 flights canceled. Nobody is safe, even my flight out of here on Saturday has been canceled. So we'll see. We're not out of the woods just yet.

BOLDUAN: Pete, thank you so much.

Ukraine's President Zelenskyy came to Washington on a mission. And with a message for the president, the Congress and the American people.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Against all odds and doom and gloom scenarios, Ukraine didn't fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): The incoming chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Michael McCaul, was in the chamber for that historic speech. He joins us next.






BOLDUAN: Ukraine's President Zelenskyy delivered a historic speech to a joint meeting of Congress yesterday. He was passionate and defiant and grateful in his 20 minutes of remarks, where he was actually stopped and paused multiple times in his remarks by multiple standing ovations from the chamber.

In his remarks, he promised nothing short of victory.


ZELENSKYY: This year will be a turning point. I know it, the point when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom. Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender.


BOLDUAN: Before that speech, Zelenskyy met with President Biden, of course, at the White House. The leaders presented a united front, even as Zelenskyy made it clear that Ukraine will need more from the United States and Europe in order to defeat the Russian invasion. Jeremy Diamond is live at the White House for us at this hour. Jeremy, it was a historic day.

What are you hearing from there now about the impact his visit will have?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, a senior White House official telling me this morning that the White House feels that Zelenskyy made a very compelling case to the American public, to the lawmakers in his remarks to Congress last night about the need to continue U.S. support and aid to Ukraine.

And that is a compelling case that the White House certainly hopes will help ramp up the public pressure and keep up public support for the aid to continue to Ukraine, particularly at this inflection point, not only in Ukraine with a very difficult winter ahead, Russia continuing to cripple the country's energy infrastructure, but in particular, here in Washington, where Republicans are set to take over the House of Representatives.

Some of those Republicans have cast doubt on the future of U.S. aid to Ukraine, including the Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, saying that there will be no more blank checks to Ukraine going forward.

Now Zelenskyy made this case not only to those lawmakers but directly to the American people, talking about trying to capture American hearts in his remarks.

And while he expressed a lot of gratitude for the support that the U.S. has given so far, including the $1.8 billion of additional aid that President Biden announced yesterday, we also heard him make clear it is just not enough.


ZELENSKYY: And your support is crucial, not just to stand in such fight but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield. We have artillery, yes. Thank you. We have it.

Is it enough?

Honestly, not really.



DIAMOND: And that senior White House official I was talking to today said they weren't surprised at the White House that Zelenskyy did make this case for more aid, more aid, more aid, even as in a kind of half- joking manner.

They would have been surprised had he not done that. And Presidents Biden and Zelenskyy did talk about the what the future of the war looks like. But it is not clear in that we're closer to the end game.

Zelenskyy seemed to cast doubt on this notion of a just peace, saying it is difficult to form a just peace with a terrorist state like Russia -- in his words. And he also made clear that there will be no compromise as it relates to Ukraine's territorial integrity.

President Biden used those terms, "a just peace," but he also said he will support what the Ukrainian leader needs to end this war.

BOLDUAN: Thank you for that.

Joining me for more, Republican congressman Michael McCaul of Texas.

Thank you for coming on. You were in the chamber last night.

What was it like for you?

What did you think of his message?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): You know, I think the word historic has been used quite a bit. I was part of the official escort committee, met with him in a back room in the Capitol. He's very -- a very strong man, very inspiring.

You know what I appreciated about his speech, a couple of things. One were the parallels that he made to World War II. That would be my father's war. When I go to Poland, they talk about 1939. And had we stopped Hitler at that point in time, we would have saved so much blood and treasure from occurring (sic).

And what we're see right now is a struggle for the global balance of power in the world and that is Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. And chairman Xi in China, looking at Taiwan and also Putin in Ukraine, you cannot bifurcate these world powers. And they're all against freedom and democracy in the West.

I was worried that it would be politicized. I thought he gave a tremendous speech that was inspiring to not only the United States but to the world.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Zelenskyy did make clear that they're going to need more, not now. But they will need more in aid in the future. And Kevin McCarthy, he reacted to CNN, to this speech last night.

And what McCarthy said in reacting to Zelenskyy's speech was this, "I support Ukraine but I never support a blank check. We want to make sure there is accountability for all of the money that we spent" -- and I assume he means spend as well.

Should Zelenskyy hear that and be concerned that Ukraine will see less support from the U.S. under the new Republican majority?

MCCAUL: I don't think so. I think you do have people on the far left and right, who are opposed to funding this effort. But you know, my point is, with this investment and I know it sounds like a lot of money, but we've destroyed the Russian military without one American soldier being killed.

I mean, now think about that, that four nations (INAUDIBLE) like Russia, who would have thought Ukraine would even have the capability to do this?

And the thing is, every time we give them what they need, they come through. My only criticism would be -- and to your point about the blank check -- we are going to have oversight and accountability. The American taxpayer deserves that.

But through that, I want to make sure that, when we're giving them this money, it is going to the weapons that they need because right now they're not getting the weapons that they need.

I think it was difficult because Zelenskyy is in a position of saying thank you for the Patriot battery system that could maybe protect Kyiv but not the whole country. But what he's saying behind the scenes here, I need more. I need everything. I need to win this war and you're not giving it to me.

I've had a lot of discussions with the administration -- and these are bipartisan by the way -- what does Ukraine need to get this thing done in the short-term, not a long-protracted war?

And you know what it is?

You slow walked the HIMARS, the Javelin Stingers. Now it is the longer-range artillery that could hit the Iranian drones in Crimea. That is what is causing the damage and destruction against the infrastructure and the civilian population.

That is what they need right now, and this administration is not willing to put that in. I don't know understand that. And I've had many discussions with them and there are other countries that you have them, that want to put them in but they can't get permission from the United States.

BOLDUAN: There is clearly, this is not -- there is -- this package just announced and approved.


BOLDUAN: And there is another ask and there will be more asks to come. CNN is reporting that the White House and some in Congress are working to formally designate Russia -- what they are calling it -- as an aggressor state.

I read your comments and reacting to that even discussion. And you think that it doesn't go far enough because it falls short of designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.

The thought behind this, though, is that the state sponsor of terrorism designation has too many unintended consequences, tying the hands of the government in dealing with Russia on a number of issues.

Do you see that?

MCCAUL: Yes, and I've been dealing with foreign terrorist designations for -- I try to get the cartels designated that; IRGC in Iran, they certainly deserve that. I think it is tricky with Russia. Again, I think the best thing we could do is give them what they need

now so they could win in the short-term. We're going to go into wintertime. They have could have an offensive to take out the Iranian drones right now.

I'll never forget being in the 82nd Airborne right when this operation was starting, 50 miles of Russian tanks stuck in the mud north of Kyiv. And we couldn't do a darn thing about it to take them out. And all they needed was one A-10 Warthog to do that. That is a plane.



BOLDUAN: So what you're saying is they don't need a designation to help them win this fight, they need artillery?

MCCAUL: That's very symbolic. What they need are the weapons that -- and you read between the lines in the speech. Zelenskyy was being very gracious, but he had to say that, is that I also need more.

And what he meant behind the lines there or reading behind the lines, he needs the longer-range artillery attacks that could take out the Ukrainian drones into Crimea, causing so much havoc and destroying infrastructure and taking down power and killing innocent civilians.

I don't know why the administration is so hesitant to do this. And it is not just me. The current chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith agrees with me on this.

BOLDUAN: He's been on the show many times talking about the need to send more over and send more over quickly.

Before we go, I know that we've talked about Afghanistan many times. You've been there many times. Just I want to get your reaction to the Taliban this week, announcing that it is banning and barring, suspending all women from attending universities.

At this point, is there anything that the United States could do about it?

MCCAUL: We handed Afghanistan over to the Taliban. That was a policy decision made by the commander in chief. I disagreed with that policy and the I think the way it was handled, without any plan of action, the debacle, leaving Americans behind, Afghanistan partners behind and now the women, this is the worst, is to watch the women now under sharia law being tortured.

Can't go to school, can't even go out in public without a male companion, without being tortured. It is really awful to see what is happening. I talked to Roy Romani (ph), the former ambassador from Afghanistan.

And she's taking this on with a women's rights issue.

What can we do? We can't force the Taliban to change their behavior. We handed the

country over to them. That was a mistake.

BOLDUAN: Well, that is a discussion we'll continue to have as you move into to take over the chairmanship. Thank you, appreciate it.

MCCAUL: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, as we wait for the release of the January 6 committee's full report, the latest that we're learning from the testimony transcripts. And there is a lot of them that have been released so far. That is next.